On a Sunday morning, dad's sitting in a private hospital room by a sunlit window. He tells me his doctors have agreed to let him use a chair even though he can't get out of it by himself. He says they haven't decided yet whether to do more cutting or more chemotherapy or nothing at all: "But they'll get paid whatever they do . . ."
I tell him that I have to hurry back to the airport for a midday flight. Then I reach for his hand, and we play an old game: "Who has the stronger grip?" This time, I let him win. I try to smile as I say, "Bye, take care."
Outside his room, a medication nurse listens to me stammer, "Check . . . him . . . make sure . . . doesn't fall . . ." But I can't complete a sentence.
I rush into a bathroom and begin sobbing. I continue to cry in the empty elevator, then in the rental car all the way to the airport, quieting finally on the packed plane.
a boy and his dad
cast one shadow
by Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina
first published in bottle rockets #19, August 2008